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> Are others just blind?, Or is there something I'm missing?
Witless
post Sep 11 2005, 08:55 AM
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This isn't a rant, but I have been curious about this for years.
Do white people find that hard to tell the difference between black people?

I'm black.. and I have been compared to: Sisko from star trek deep space nine, Jake Sisko from stak trek deep space nine, Sisqo (whom I hate) the "R&B" singer person, Ian Wright old england footballer, and one even This man Chris Eubank, retired boxer. Are these people so similar looking, that so many people believe they really do look even remotely alike? Through my eyes these guys couldn't look more different if they had different numbers of horns growing from their faces. Yet somehow I have regularly been told I look like all five of them. This only ever gets said by white people too (don't mean to sound racist so sorry if I offend). Never once another black person (african or carribean or otherwise), indian, south american, or native american.
I'm starting to believe a great deal of people only look at people's hair to tell them apart from others.

Someone explain this phenomenone to me in a way I can fathom in the slitghtest way?


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Usurper MrTeapot
post Sep 11 2005, 09:10 AM
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Its the "they all look the same to me" idea.


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post Sep 11 2005, 09:20 AM
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Actually I experience a similar phenomena. People I say I look like Elizja Woods then I've been confused for two other local kids on as a regular occurrence, one of these identity confusions has occurred ever since I was 10 or 11. Perhaps this isn't the same thing as there are similarities.
Perhaps as you experience this coming only from white people this is just their own ignorance and they jump to these ludicrous conclusions based entirely on skin colour or similar hair cuts. I wouldn't say clothes as I could hardly imagine you get around in anything remotely similar to a Star Trek outfit.
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Witless
post Sep 11 2005, 09:27 AM
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QUOTE
I wouldn't say clothes as I could hardly imagine you get around in anything remotely similar to a Star Trek outfit.


Well I dunno... I am quite a trekky.... dry.gif


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Mata
post Sep 11 2005, 03:28 PM
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Actually, to me Jake Sisko and Sisqo look a little similar in those photos, but that's because of the long faces and similar jaw-line. They look nothing like the other guys you mention who all look competely different from each-other. I tend to find similarities between odd people. A had a friend who, to me looked exactly like an obscure TV presenter... Except that they had completely different skin colours.

If you're looking for a reason then I think that there is actually a fairly logical one (although I have no idea if this is true, but it's what I've always thought when I've noticed the grouping of completely different looking people by their skin-colour). I think it's because people remember things by what, to them, is the most prominent feature. Outside of the major cities in the UK there is still a huge majority of caucasian people. I know that where I live, which isn't a tiny place, you'll probably only see one or two black people at most if you walk once down the high street.

When it is so rare for people to see black people then the skin colour becomes the dominant memory in the mind. You could probably have the most amazing almond shaped eyes, be six-foot seven, and a killer figure, but they'd consider your skin colour to be your most striking feature because they're not accustomed to it, and so then they immediately associate that one aspect with other people that they know of who also have that feature. I bet anyone who is white and has sticking-out ears probably gets compared to Gary Lineker all the time because the ears are their most prominent feature.

Another example is height: I'm really quite tall, and I only notice the height of people if they are taller than me, other than that everyone just seems short, so I rarely use height to describe people, but my girlfriend is tall for a woman but is short comared to men, so she is very much average for the population as a whole and she often mentions the height of people when describing them because that means more to her because the variety of heights is more clear from her perspective. To me the whole world is full of short people and a few giants, but to her there is a whole spectrum of heights, so this distinguishing feature is based on experience. I don't think that the comparison of completely-different-people-except-for-their-skin-colour is through any deliberate racism as such, just the lack of different skin colours means that often people just don't have much experience of seeing that as nothing distinctive.

I think I had a good head-start on skin colour issues: when I was a toddler there were black twins in my play-school class. They weren't identicial twins, but having brothers around might have meant that I very quickly learnt to use distinguishing features other than skin colour.

I've often wondered what sort of mix of cultural backgrounds this website appeals to, for example, I know it's quite popular in Germany, but I seem to get only a tiny amount of visitors from France. I've also occasionally thought about different racial backgrounds. When I read the start of this thread I thought 'ah, so there are people on here who aren't white' completely forgetting that a friend of mine for several years who is now on here is also not white. I think to my mind there are so many more prominent things about people than their colour, but that probably comes from my social circumstances when I was growing up.

Maybe if I had grown up in a village with almost no racial mix then I wouldn't see the world this way. I think it's probably a psychology issue rather than some sort of prejudice. I have no doubt that when the first white travellers reached Africa, or wander through the remaining jungles and meet previously isolated tribes, all white people look the same to the local population too!

I suppose the logical next question is: how long will it be before people get used to seeing different skin colours, through television and other media, so that this issue passes?


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Witless
post Sep 11 2005, 03:58 PM
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Hmm.. that makes a lot of sense actually.. I'm tall and people all look the same height to me unless they are really tall or really short.
I guess where I've always been around predominantly white people, I've learnt to notice all the variations of skin tone and appearence of facial features. I probably wouldn't had I grown up in a different environment.

I noticed my great grandfather (he's 105 and still going!) He says "all white folk look the same". He's a bit racist though so he might be biased. But My mother for example finds the whole idea of tanning silly, she really cannot see any difference at all between people who tan and don't.

QUOTE
When I read the start of this thread I thought 'ah, so there are people on here who aren't white'
.

I have found myself as the only non white person in a lot of places I go to be honest. As with all things there is a culture to conform, and within an ethnic culture there's pressure to conform just like anywhere else. When I was a kid, me and my cousins around my age, were all fairly similar in that we played like any other kids.. all the way up to just before teens. Now they're alien to me.

But yeah.. I'd like to know other ethnicities lurking about the place too unsure.gif


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Moosh
post Sep 11 2005, 04:13 PM
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QUOTE (Witless @ Sep 11 2005, 03:58 PM)
But yeah.. I'd like to know other ethnicities lurking about the place too  unsure.gif
*


Me and my sister (MonchromeRainbow) are Asian.


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Mata
post Sep 11 2005, 04:24 PM
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I never knew that CM... Not that there's really any reason that I would!

Funkedout Frog is a 'lady of colour' and a colourful lady biggrin.gif

I seem to remember Prince Aries was part-east-Asian, but I might be hallucinating that.

It's odd, but the ethnicity/racial background thing has never really come up in conversation around here before.

Witless: That's interesting about your grandfather. I guess that adds a bit of weight to my idea. Has he always lived in England or did he spend his childhood elsewhere? I'm just wondering if maybe childhood conditioning is an important factor.


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Witless
post Sep 11 2005, 04:33 PM
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QUOTE
Witless: That's interesting about your grandfather. I guess that adds a bit of weight to my idea. Has he always lived in England or did he spend his childhood elsewhere? I'm just wondering if maybe childhood conditioning is an important factor.


Spent the majority of his life in the caribbean, he was already old before he came to enland.

QUOTE
Funkedout Frog is a 'lady of colour' and a colourful lady


Aye frog is a colourful lady indeed *pokes frog*


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Daria
post Sep 11 2005, 06:38 PM
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I was going to write something along the lines of what Mata said, but I think it's uneccessary as he explained it better than I could biggrin.gif

I am not racist, but it is true- if I see a person with different colour skin to mine then it is the first thing I notice. This is probably because where I live is predominantly white caucasian with very little in the way of differing ethnic backgrounds.


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post Sep 11 2005, 07:01 PM
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QUOTE (Mata @ Sep 11 2005, 04:24 PM)
Funkedout Frog is a 'lady of colour' and a colourful lady biggrin.gif


A laaady of colour tongue.gif

I can tell the difference between people of other ethnicities whom I know. Otherwise, I don't generally pay attention to random strangers, although I guess the same would be true should I bother to observe them.


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CommieBastard
post Sep 11 2005, 07:05 PM
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QUOTE (CheeseMoose @ Sep 11 2005, 05:13 PM)
Me and my sister (MonchromeRainbow) are Asian.
*


You've had that avatar for too long; I can't picture you as anything but a black guy with dreads tongue.gif


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LoLo
post Sep 12 2005, 03:17 AM
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I thought maybe for a minute people just thought you looked like anyone who had the name of Sisco in some different spelling variation. laugh.gif

Perhaps it's just that people don't pay attention, or it's just that they want to relate who you are to someone famous, and they just have different opinions of who they think you look like.


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Quoth(The Raven)
post Sep 12 2005, 08:25 AM
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okay, as long as we're discussing ethnicity, I will admit that I am:

a mutt.

Oh, the shame! laugh.gif

Actually, my great grandmother on my mother's side, was American Indian, my great grandfather was Irish (His last name was Smiley, and people described him as looking like a leprechaun- red hair, green eyes, small of stature, and always had a grin on his face...) my great-grand parents on the paternal side were also Irish and Indian. The tribes were Apache and Cherokee. I'm not sure where my Grandfather's people were from, but he looked nordic... tall, fair, and solidly built. THat leaves a grandparent, I know... but I know very little about that one...

As for your query, i have a corolary: The southern states of America have, in recent years, seen an influx of Hispanics. These include Colombians, Guatamalans, and a vareity of other Spanish speaking peoples. And, yet, the local Black and White populations both refer to them as 'Mexicans' (and look down their collective nose at them). Meanwhile, while the whites and blacks can't tell the difference, and lump these peoples together, the different nationalities CAN tell each other apart at a glance, and segragate themselves by nationality, often hating those of nationalities not their own. blink.gif

Interestingly, a friend of the family from Spain, gets culture shock from all sides; Hispanics take one look at her pale skin, and are amazed that she can speak Spanish. English speakers hear her speaking Spanish like a native (Which she is...) and wonder how a white woman can possibly speak Spanish. It never occurs to either group that she is from Spain, where the language originated. Spain is like another world, to them, which makes her, I suppose, a space alien... tongue.gif

ah, the bizarre things an ever shrinking world brings to us...


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post Sep 12 2005, 11:54 AM
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QUOTE (Daria @ Sep 11 2005, 06:38 PM)
I am not racist
*


It's entertaining to me that you find you had to specify that you're not a racist before stating that you notice peoples skin colour. Being observant doesn't make you racist. wink.gif

It's a slight tangent, but it carries on what Mata was talking about. At school, through GCSE and A-level, there were a pair of "identical" twins in one of my classes (music). Now, esspecially during A-level, the whole class spent a helluva lot of time together, and while other people in the school always claimed that it was so hard to tell them apart, I have to say they really were very different looking to me. They had similar features, sure, but to me, because we used to have to spend so much time together on group projects and so on that to me they looked very different, almost to the point where I questioned whether they were identical twins or just very similar looking twins.


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Snugglebum the D...
post Sep 12 2005, 12:26 PM
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*considers how to word this very, very carefully*

To be honest, you very rarely see a black person where I live. It's not quite the middle of nowhere and I don't think that there's a racial issue with my area. When I was at school there was one chinese family and a girl of mixed heritage but that was it.

I've never considered that there was a black community here and I have never even contemplated the issue until recently. I can walk through town on a daily basis and all I will see is caucasian skin and the occasional asian. However, six months ago I moved house and I now live opposite a gospel church. On my first Sunday living here I saw more black people then I have in my full 6 years of residing here.

I'm pretty backwards about this sort of thing anyway, but even though I have lived a rather 'sheltered' existance, I really wouldn't say that black people all look the same to me. I'm fascinated when I meet a black person in a really very innocent way.

I was told off the other day because I apparently said something that was construed as being racist . I didn't even realise that this was the case and the alternative I was told I should use (because it was far more PC, apparently) I felt was far more racist then the phrase I had used.

I think the point that I'm trying to make (in a random and roundabout way) is that because I don't have a lot of contact with any other ethnicities, I don't understand the divide or if indeed there is one.

Please tell me that made sense? huh.gif


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post Sep 12 2005, 12:47 PM
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I see very few differences in Aboriginal people only one in say50 even looks exeptional to me (allthough abo babies are cute as)
But on the other end I categorise white people into 8 basic looks for each feature and 5 face shapes which generally end up with similar configurations of features.
People with even one unclassified feature or an unusual feature for their face stand out to me.
Similarly people of diferrent ethnicity to what you usually see interest me enough to try and fix their face in my mind.
All in all I'm a people watcher but certain looks just don't sink in.

From listening in on a conversation I observed some people that I just would have called Asian discussing that the male found one of the girls very attractive and had thought she looked korean when she was saying she was actually from somwhere else obviously some asian people are generally more attractive than others.


This is a whole lot more incoherant than I meant it to be.


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kisah
post Sep 12 2005, 01:51 PM
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QUOTE (Witless @ Sep 11 2005, 08:55 AM)
This isn't a rant, but I have been curious about this for years.
Do white people find that hard to tell the difference between black people?
*



Okay, so here's my theory- just a stab in the dark though.

I haven't ever found it difficult to tell black people apart from one another but I don't know if that has anything to do with my participation in west african percussion for the better half of my life. However, I do sometimes find it difficult to tell japanese people apart. I kind of feel bad saying that but it is the truth. It's not that I don't care or that I'm not paying attention.. I don't have an answer why.

However, your question might be slightly different than 'Do white people find that hard to tell the difference between black people?'. I believe that a better question might be 'Why do white people compare me to other black celebrities that I look nothing like.' or that look nothing like one another, or whatever.

I think the real answer to this is going to vary culturally from one region to the next regardless of whether you're in the UK or America. One possible explaination is that people like to make connections. It is easy for me to see why a white person that doesn't have any black friends or friendly aquaintences would like to pull *anything* out of their repetoir that might make them feel closer to you.

It's like when my mother-in-law says to her friends 'Yes, Jonathon married an American girl but she's quite nice and doesn't sound american at all'. She doesn't mean to be rude, but she is trying to make her friends feel like I'm less of an alien.

One of my mates in Seattle joined a social club I belonged to and he was one of very very few black men in the club. Sometimes it was so uncomfortable because a few of the members hadn't ever properly socialized with a black person. (I realize this sounds crazy but it's not even like I was living in a little town so it musn't be that uncommon, unfortunately.) So they would say all kinds of bizzarre stuff, really just floundering to make some connection. They were trying to be nice people, they wanted so much for him to feel welcome and included that they were going much farther out of their way than they would for a new white person but it all just ended up seeming awkward and forced.

So, there you have it. Some white people that don't know any black people will make complete asses of themselves just trying to make a connection.


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Witless
post Sep 12 2005, 02:26 PM
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QUOTE (Snugglebum the Destroyer @ Sep 12 2005, 01:26 PM)
I'm pretty backwards about this sort of thing anyway, but even though I have lived a rather 'sheltered' existance, I really wouldn't say that black people all look the same to me.  I'm fascinated when I meet a black person in a really very innocent way. 

I was told off the other day because I apparently said something that was construed as being racist .  I didn't even realise that this was the case and the alternative I was told I should use (because it was far more PC, apparently) I felt was far more racist then the phrase I had used. 

I think the point that I'm trying to make (in a random and roundabout way) is that because I don't have a lot of contact with any other ethnicities, I don't understand the divide or if indeed there is one.

Please tell me that made sense?  huh.gif
*


Some people are more sensitive about having their race talked about thatn others.
Me personally.. if I'm sure the person isn't prejudiced, I'm not really bothered by race curiousity or fascination.

Last year I went to Poland before they joined the EU, I didn't see any non white people there for my whole stay. There were basically two reactions to me. Minority looked at me with this "what is he doing here look". Others with this "oh wow wow, a black person like off the TV". The second reaction amused me because they all just wanted to know more.

I think that's a great reaction to have. To just ask and find out, and be curious. Sure beats intolerence and fear in my book.


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Moosh
post Sep 12 2005, 04:27 PM
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QUOTE (CommieBastard @ Sep 11 2005, 07:05 PM)
QUOTE (CheeseMoose @ Sep 11 2005, 05:13 PM)
Me and my sister (MonchromeRainbow) are Asian.
*


You've had that avatar for too long; I can't picture you as anything but a black guy with dreads tongue.gif
*



Change that to 'Brown guy with long hair' and you'd be there


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CommieBastard
post Sep 12 2005, 05:24 PM
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QUOTE (Witless @ Sep 12 2005, 03:26 PM)
Last year I went to Poland before they joined the EU, I didn't see any non white people there for my whole stay. There were basically two reactions to me. Minority looked at me with this "what is he doing here look". Others with this "oh wow wow, a black person like off the TV". The second reaction amused me because they all just wanted to know more.

I think that's a great reaction to have. To just ask and find out, and be curious. Sure beats intolerence and fear in my book.
*


Incidentally, this experience is available to white people! Simply visit Japan, or some part of China that isn't Hong Kong. Apparently, people will stop and stare at you in the street.


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Chronotub
post Sep 12 2005, 09:13 PM
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We did thisin psychology when we were studying eye whitness testimony.
I forget the details (I have just finnished the holidays and my brain is turned to mush) but its something to do with the way the human brain recognises faces, apperently it is found all races so asians can have trouble telling the difference between different white people so can blacks.


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Mata
post Sep 13 2005, 12:42 AM
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QUOTE (kisah @ Sep 12 2005, 01:51 PM)
Some white people that don't know any black people will make complete asses of themselves just trying to make a connection.
*

Nicely put! I hadn't really thought about it from that direction, but you're probably right there. Most people in the world are generally good-willed towards others, no matter the skin colour (I hope I'm not being optimistic there), so over-compensation can cause some odd behaviour.

QUOTE (Witless @ Sep 12 2005, 02:26 PM)
I think that's a great reaction to have. To just ask and find out, and be curious. Sure beats intolerence and fear in my book.
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Absolutely. That's one of the things that sexual politics has in common with race issues. Communication, as with many things, is going to be the way that we get past all the trash in our history. Never forgetting is fine, but learning is better.

QUOTE (CommieBastard @ Sep 12 2005, 05:24 PM)
Incidentally, this experience is available to white people! Simply visit Japan, or some part of China that isn't Hong Kong. Apparently, people will stop and stare at you in the street.
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Chinatown in San Francisco was an odd enough experience. People didn't stop and stare, but being the only white guy on a busy street and a foot taller than the next-tallest person was quite strange!


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Pikasyuu
post Sep 13 2005, 03:53 AM
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Very, very interesting topic!

Growing up in a hub of culture like Las Vegas, I had absolutely no idea that prejudice even existed until my early teens, when I started hearing racial slurs from the very few intollerant people around and on the media. I'd never been around any racists or anyone who reacted at all differently to any races, so it never even occured to me that anyone would be lumped together by any feature. I was so used to seeing people from everywhere around the globe that spoke every language, a complete mix was perfectly regular. And really, I'm glad I grew up that way. I wouldn't want anyone misinterpriting a fascination I may have developed growing up somewhere else for prejudice.

And as for me, I'm a mutt too. tongue.gif Australian-French-Irish-Filipino. Odd, no? And it's also possible, as has been said, that the colour combination of bleached hair and dark skin would find itself as a double prominence in peoples' minds. It doesn't go together that often, so it tends to catch more interest and stand out as the only thing seen.


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Quoth(The Raven)
post Sep 13 2005, 05:17 AM
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QUOTE (Sir_Psycho_Sexy @ Sep 12 2005, 06:54 AM)
QUOTE (Daria @ Sep 11 2005, 06:38 PM)
I am not racist
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It's entertaining to me that you find you had to specify that you're not a racist before stating that you notice peoples skin colour. Being observant doesn't make you racist. wink.gif

It's a slight tangent, but it carries on what Mata was talking about. At school, through GCSE and A-level, there were a pair of "identical" twins in one of my classes (music). Now, esspecially during A-level, the whole class spent a helluva lot of time together, and while other people in the school always claimed that it was so hard to tell them apart, I have to say they really were very different looking to me. They had similar features, sure, but to me, because we used to have to spend so much time together on group projects and so on that to me they looked very different, almost to the point where I questioned whether they were identical twins or just very similar looking twins.
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Well, Identical twins are rarely, if ever, completely identical. You can see this if they stand side by side. It's when they come at you separately, that it may be hard to identify which is which... smile.gif


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